When certain candidates or their supporters get desperate, they sometimes choose to attack with information that is either grossly distorted or completely false. Biased media sources might run the attacks, making them look like legitimate news stories, but they are not. And courts even allow lies to continue in political campaigns. Voters must be aware of this and be willing to seek out the truth, and that is why I’m starting this Truth page.
This is my place to explain and counter the vicious attacks you might read in the Press and on the blogs in the upcoming days. The City has tried, three different times, a number of years ago, to ruin my reputation with fabricated or distorted information. I fought it then and stood up for myself, but I kept the records just in case. I did not plan to bring this information out again, but the city is poised to attack and I will defend myself with the truth.
Last week, in an interview I had with the Press, reporter Jeff Selle quickly brought up some of the old dirt, telling me he recently talked with former city council woman Dixie Reid to ask her why I was removed from Planning and Zoning (back in 2007). Dixie said, according to Jeff, that the council had “so many complaints” about me being rude, that they just had to let me go. That’s a bunch of bunk! You can listen to the full recording of the meeting below. It takes about 40 minutes.
Now I know they intend to dig it all up, so I am ready with the facts…facts which will show you the cycle of intimidation and how this city works, and will offer yet another essential reason we need responsible, respectful governance in our city!
Any time you see something negative printed about me, or hear an insult, please ask the source for specific examples. Then come to this Truth page for “the rest of the story.” I will be adding more info here as we go along. If I have not covered the topic you are seeking, please email me anytime at: email@example.com
Thank You! --Mary
Quick answer: My campaign had absolutely no knowledge of any actions reported in the Press, nor were we involved in any manner. The bigger question, in my opinion, is why was this a front page headline? Please read on for more…
This story in the Press has nothing at all to do with this Truth Page on my web site, it is referring to a newly formed PAC (political action committee) called Truth North Idaho, which says, in its Mission Statement that it “is steadfast in its determination to preserve and defend Christian family values in our community.”
The supposed controversy highlighted by the Press front page headline story, is that someone from Truth North Idaho made some phone calls and sent some emails to candidates, asking their stance on issues important to the faith community. The problem, according to the Press, was that the person calling may have used an assumed persona.
This is almost laughable because the Press allows all kinds of derogatory lies to be spread by its anonymous online commenters on a regular basis. And now one of those, who attacks me regularly while hiding behind a fake name, is claiming my campaign is involved today’s controversy because the person named in the Press as the caller, is one of over 300 “friends” on my Mary for Mayor CdA facebook page. Let me state again: My campaign had absolutely no knowledge of any such actions, nor were we involved in any manner.
But what is more interesting is why the Press put this as a front page headline story. Is this big news? Last week, some strong supporters of my opponent, Steve Widmyer, published a new web site that was entirely dedicated to bashing me with erroneous info, distortions and lies. It was called “Unfit for Mayor” and was created by Jennifer Riggs Drake, daughter of Pita Pit’s Jack Riggs. (Jennifer and Jack were both totally against a public vote of any kind on McEuen Park and Jennifer started the “Decline to Sign” group against the Recall, which was also supported by my opponent in this Mayor’s race.) Even the local gossip blog that is always against me thought the new web site went way too far. The site was taken down after only 90 minutes. But did the Press report it? Oh no. There was not one word written in the Press, and certainly not a front page headline.
The Press has shown its true colors over and again, and it’s obvious they are not objective or fair. They are distracting people from the real issues in this race. We’re going to keep moving forward, focusing on the important issues for our community. People want their views to be heard. They want a voice in local government, not to be told what to do by an elitist few. The Souza plan is for the benefit of the people so we can make Coeur d' Alene a great place to live, work, and raise a family for all citizens. When I am elected that is what I aim to do."--Mary
Late last week, on Oct. 17, 2013, the City of CdA sent my campaign a letter demanding information about one of our donors. City Clerk Renata McLeod signed the letter but the city Legal Dept. was also involved.
The letter, which you can read here, explains that the City Clerk can require information and documents to be produced for inspection “during an investigation”. But my campaign did not know why we were being “investigated”. We have broken no laws or regulations. All donations were recorded and submitted properly and on time, according to the laws. The letter also uses threatening language, saying the information must be “in writing and under penalty of perjury…”
Candidates are required to list the entity giving the donation, along with the address, date of donation and amount given. We are not responsible for any further information about the person or business giving the contribution.
But, even as such, we prepared the documents demanded in the letter from the City, and three of us went down to City Hall: My campaign organizer, Becky Funk and my campaign treasurer, Jim Doty, accompanied me.
I asked the City Clerk to call the City Attorney and request he join us for a short meeting. She informed me the Chief City Attorney, Mike Gridley, was not in that day, last Friday, but she would ask Deputy City Attorney Warren Wilson.
Warren arrived a few minutes later, but did not introduce himself or greet any of us until, finally, we extended our hands to him. (I know Warren from P&Z, but Becky and Jim had never met him. He was quite unfriendly and unprofessional, in my opinion.) Becky had her smart phone out on the table and pushed a button, telling Warren and Renata, “I’m recording this.” Warren stood up immediately and said, “This meeting is over”, and he started to walk out. He said recording the meeting was “rude”. Really? I explained we just wanted to make a record of what was said because the City sent us a legal letter of demand, and we’d like to know what laws we violated. Warren answered, “I don’t know that you’ve violated any laws.” But then he would not continue the meeting unless we stopped the recording, which we did. (Though I have since been told we should not have stopped it. The city attorney should be willing to go on the record with their reasons for the “investigation”.)
The city has no reasons. They are fishing for something, anything to make my campaign look less than honest. There is nothing to find, but they will keep the appearance of uncertainty hanging in the air.
Warren said he knows of no violations of the laws or regulations by our campaign, yet he would not give me that statement in writing because they need to “investigate”. I asked what they will investigate pertaining directly to my campaign, and he indicated there is nothing. But the “investigation” will take until after the election is over, he said.
And so it goes, people. Is this the kind of governance we want to continue in our town?
The Idaho Constitution says, in article 8, section 3, that cities can’t go beyond their one year budget without asking. They either have to ask a judge to rule the expenditure “ordinary and necessary”, like with the wastewater treatment plant, or they must take the spending issue to the voters for their approval before the city borrows any money. Why don’t they ask us anymore? The city can get around this law now because of LCDC urban renewal. LCDC is why you haven’t had a vote on any optional public projects since the Library in 2005. LCDC gets a portion of all property taxes for each and every property in their huge districts. They’ve been using that money, which is all local taxpayer money, for many optional public projects, so the city, or NIC, doesn’t have to ask the voters. In essence, we’re being taxed for these projects without our vote.
Also LCDC is allowed to borrow money without a vote, but the city can’t. So LCDC borrowed $16.75 million dollars against future tax revenues, and put the money into McEuen Park. That’s why the city didn’t have to legally give us a binding vote, but they should have respected the citizens enough to give us a public advisory vote.
That is what was divisive.
We have a representative form of city government. Elected officials are supposed to manage the “ordinary and necessary” operations of the city. The budget is necessary. The wastewater treatment expansion is necessary. Fixing the Dike road is necessary. But spending $20 million to remodel an existing park is optional. That’s when our representative government should represent the will of the people, as they were elected to do, and the only way to know what the will of the people is, is to ask.
Of course not! I have never been against any of these things, but my critics like to say so in order to make me look unreasonable.
Here’s the real story: I am against the unfair, improper process by which some major decisions have been made in our city, but I am not against the projects themselves. Please let me explain:
Growth: As a local small business owner for the past 29 years, I’m a strong supporter of growth done right—in a responsible way to protect the rights of property owners, taxpayers and the environment.
The Kroc Center is great and beautiful. I have always complimented those who organized the donation. But do not forget that the Kroc Center is privately owned. It is not a public community center. It is a private membership facility that is also a church. That is why I was against the very non-transparent process by which the City gave a total of $4.5 million taxpayer dollars to this private organization, without even a true public meeting to discuss the money.
The Library is wonderful. Do you realize the vote we had on the Library, back in 2005, is the last time we, the citizens of CdA, were given a vote on any optional public project? Yes, it’s true, and I voted in favor of the library. But they promised if we approved the library bond, there would be no more public money used and they would sell the old library to finish the expenses. The City did not keep those promises. They did not sell the old library—or even try. Instead. The money came from the city’s coffers.
McEuen Park will look fabulous when its done, we’ll make sure. But the decision to use $20 million public dollars to make a park out of a park, without a public vote, was disrespectful to the citizens and was divisive for the community. We should have had a public advisory vote so everyone had the chance for a voice in the decision. When I am going door-to-door in this campaign, the overwhelmingly most frequent comment I hear is that “we should have had a say on that park”. I am certain that we would not have had a Recall if there had been an advisory vote. Some of my critics like to say I am divisive. I’m not. The actions and decisions of our elected officials are what has divided this community.
Four months after the P&Z hearing in question, the Press ran an article headlined, “Souza accused of violating conflict of interest laws”. This was even AFTER Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas found that there was no conflict of interest. But the Press wrote, “Douglas found that Souza didn’t “knowingly” violate any laws…”
This was upsetting to me, so I went down to the Press offices, where I knew no one, and I complained. The reporter met with me and then I met with the Editor, who, along with the Publisher, took me out to lunch. I told them how unfair their depiction of the situation was, and I also described for them a list of other things going on in the city, which they were not reporting. They were surprised. I told them they should give me a column so I could tell people about these issues. They thought about it and let me write a Guest Editorial, which was published on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006, and was titled: “Souza Cleared! First headline didn’t tell the whole story” (you can read it here)
After that I started writing a weekly column on local politics and issues. And, as I’ve told you elsewhere on this Truth page, my column, which I wrote for free as a community service, was stopped after the city election in 2007, when all the incumbents were re-elected. The Hagadone group, who owns the newspaper and the CdA Resort, was rumored to be applying for city permits at that time, to expand their operations, so they had to make nice with the city. (elections have consequences).
My critics will say my column was canceled because of “inaccuracies”, but that’s not true, the editor told me. And less than a year later, the Press brought back my column, gave me the prime placement at the top of the Sunday Opinion page, and paid me more than they’ve ever paid a columnist, according to the editor.
After another year, right before the next city election, I opted to change my column to an email newsletter so I could be sure it would not fluctuate with outside political pressures. I’ve been writing and sending my free email newsletter ever since. You can sign up at www.maryformayorcda.com
Souza Cleared! First headline didn't tell the whole story
Published: August 27, 2006
The headline on an article last week screamed "Souza Accused" ... but what it should have said is "Souza Cleared!", quite a big difference. So, while most people sipped their coffee and glanced over their newspaper, they got the impression that I had a conflict of interest for participating in a Planning and Zoning hearing about a property near my business - not true. More than two weeks before the outrageous headline, County Prosecutor Bill Douglas' investigation cleared me completely. He found there was absolutely no basis for the charge and was surprised the issue was even sent to his office. Let me explain a bit more ...
Conflict of interest - and I am not a lawyer - is based on financial benefit. Before our P&Z meeting last May, I called John Stamsos, the City Planner who manages our meetings and John Bruning, Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. I told these two experts about my business near the applicant's proposed lease space for children's parties. They both told me I would be fine to participate in the hearing. I had no financial interest in the outcome, as was later confirmed by the Prosecutor.
This particular project needed special permission from Planning and Zoning. The zoning ordinance requires a Special Use Permit for a recreational use in an industrial areathat means the law makers realized the mix of industrial and any recreational uses might not be OK, so they required an individual hearing before anyone can put such a use in an industrial zone.
A young children's birthday party business (bouncy castles) is not safe in that industrial park. The traffic is heavy with large trucks that come ripping around the shortcut off Dalton Ave. to avoid the terrible congestion at the Dalton-Hwy 95 intersection.
Those trucks come hauling around an almost blind curve, right by the building proposed for children's parties ... a very unsafe mix of uses. I know this because I have worked in this area for years-the applicant was not aware of this problem because he had not been there to see it.
He didn't even know about the trucks sharing his proposed parking lot, the huge pit behind his proposed building, whether there was a fence and much more.
Now there's the whole subject of whether a Planning Commissioner should use their personal knowledge in a P&Z hearing. I'm not talking about "ex parte" communication - which means talking to people about the project before the hearing - I was very careful not to do that. No, when I refer to personal knowledge, I mean the information we all pick up by being part of the community - driving by an intersection, living in a neighborhood or working in our professions.
We all absorb details, which help us on P&Z so we can ask pertinent questions or raise concerns. I think this makes the Planning Commission a stronger advocate for the community, and that's our job. We are there to ask the right questions and help CdA grow in a sensible fashion. We are not cardboard cutouts simply mimicking pre-selected bits of information from the staff report or depending only on the unpredictable quantity and quality of outside testimony at a hearing.
We are real community members from all walks of life-an educator, two realtors, a builder, forester, engineer and business owner-each giving more than 20 hours every month to help our city progress in a way that keeps our character and laws intact ... it's volunteerism at its best, and the newspaper headlines should be accurate to honor that contribution.
Mary Souza has been a Planning and Zoning Commissioner in CdA for 5 years: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright, 2006, The Coeur d'Alene Press. All Rights Reserved.
Quick answer: Yes, because I was asking tough but polite questions about LCDC urban renewal.
I served as a volunteer P&Z commissioner for 6 years, from 2001 to 2007. During the last year or so of my time on the commission, I was also writing a weekly political column, which was published in the CdA Press. My columns brought forward information and asked questions about the City which, sometimes, the current administration did not appreciate. Many of my columns dealt with LCDC urban renewal, an unelected group of people who manage millions of public taxpayer dollars. LCDC was largely unknown to most citizens and was, in my opinion, shrouded under a purposeful layer of complicated language. My columns attempted to shed light on it and explain it in everyday terms. The City and LCDC did not like that.
THE P&Z MEETING WITH TONY: Tony Berns, Executive Director of LCDC, came the to a P&Z meeting in 2007. He gave a power point presentation of all the beautiful projects LCDC had been subsidizing. One of the other P&Z commissioners asked some questions first, then so did I. Hers were about how great LCDC is, my questions, while respectful, were more challenging: I asked about some of the features shown in the photos, such as, “Mr. Berns, does the public own the beautiful wrought iron fence around the Ice Plant Townhomes you are showing, which LCDC has pledged public money to subsidize?” He answered in a round about way…No. I asked a few other questions of the same sort—always professional and polite, but direct. The room was packed with people ready for the next agenda item, and they were amazed at the information coming out about LCDC. Many / most were hearing about LCDC for the first time. They vigorously applauded my questions.
No one from the City or the P&Z gave me any indication of a problem with my questions at the time, or during the many other meetings I attended in the ensuing month. Then, suddenly, a month after the LCDC presentation, the chairman of P&Z, John Bruning, told me I had to attend a mandatory meeting with the city attorney at City Hall. John said he had a letter to give me, but he wouldn’t give it until the meeting. I tried to convince John, whom I had known for years, to just have coffee with me and tell me his concerns. No, he said, the city says you must come to City Hall. So I did. I knew, because of an experience I had in 2006, unrelated to P&Z, that the city would be tape recording the meeting, so I brought my own recorder as well.
As you might guess, the meeting was about the questions I asked Tony Berns from LCDC. The city administrator, Wendy Gabriel, who is also an attorney, was present with P&Z chairman John Bruning. You can listen to the full recording of the meeting here. It takes about 40 minutes.
THE MEETING AT CITY HALL: John had a letter telling me I had been too strong in my questions for Tony Berns. I told John that I had contacted several of the people who were at the meeting, and one of my fellow commissioners as well, and asked them if I had been unprofessional or impolite in my behavior. To a person they said no, that my questions, while firm, had not been disrespectful, and they appreciated the information that came out at the meeting. Then I asked John why he hadn’t just talked with me about this concern; why it was put in a letter and a formal, recorded meeting was held? John said it was just his “management style” as chairman, though he admitted, when I asked, that he had never written a letter or had a formal meeting with any other P&Z commissioners in the 20 years he’d been in charge, even though there had been several serious concerns on the commission. City administrator Wendy Gabriel admitted, when I asked, that the city’s policy for employees is to give a verbal warning for any first time problems, and nothing in writing. I was not even an employee, I was only a volunteer, without a personnel file, so I asked Wendy why this was not a verbal warning. She said she didn’t know.
I asked for the removal and deletion of the letter from all city records, because this administration has a pattern of leaking information to damage those who don’t go along with them. John and Wendy said they’d think about it but they assured me the letter would be kept totally confidential…. The whole story was on a local gossip blog in less than 1 hour, and Wendy called me at home, to yelled at me (I recorded it), accusing me of giving the info to the gossip blog that was trying to defame me, just to make the city look bad. Of course that was completely untrue.
Listen to the audio of my meeting on April 27, 2007 with John Bruning and Wendy Gabriel ...
HOW I WAS FIRED FROM P&Z: Several months later, after the next city election where all the incumbents were re-elected (elections have consequences), the city council voted to remove me from P&Z. They did so in a late night meeting on what was rumored to be the Mayor’s birthday. The next morning, at 7:30am, I was surprised by a phone call from the city, informing me, on speaker phone, that I had been removed from the commission. When I asked the reasons for their action, they told me it was for “low morale”. I found that hard to believe since all members of the commission were very friendly and we got along well.
Later that morning, one of my fellow commissioners called me. She said that Wendy Gabriel, the city administrator, had called her at 8:30pm the evening before, which would have been during the city council meeting. Wendy asked her if she had any problems with me being on P&Z, and that commissioner answered, “no”. She didn’t go into more detail about what the city asked, but gave me a hint—“Mary, are you against growth?” No, of course not, I answered, and she agreed because she knew my voting record on P&Z shows I favor good, orderly growth. This commissioner shared with me that she was embarrassed about how the city had handled the situation. Two other commissioners, who had answered yes to Wendy’s questioning, subsequently apologized to me as well, saying they were pressured by the city to go along.
It will come as no surprise that most of the P&Z commissioners who went along with my removal, have close ties to LCDC. One of them was, and still is, an LCDC board member, and others were in the development field and had, or wanted to have, projects with LCDC.
So that is how I was fired from the P&Z Commission. And shortly there after, my column in the Press, which I had been writing for free as a community service, was canceled. The Hagadone group, who owns the newspaper and the CdA Resort, was rumored to be applying for city permits to expand their operations, so they had to make nice with the city. Elections have consequences.
My critics will say my column was canceled because of “inaccuracies”, but that’s not true, the editor told me. And less than a year later, the Press brought back my column, gave me the primo placement at the top of the Sunday Opinion page, and paid me more than they’ve ever paid a columnist, according to the editor.
More than a year later, right before the next city election, I opted to change my column to an email newsletter that I could be sure would not fluctuate with outside political pressures. I’ve been writing and sending my free email newsletter ever since. You can sign up at www.maryformayorcda.com
"In 2007 I was actively involved with the East Mullan Historical Neighborhood Association. Our neighborhood was working to undo Infill Overlay Zoning that had been put in place in our area without notifying the home owners. During that process we attended many workshops, City Council Meetings and Planning & Zoning Meetings. Mary Souza was on the Planning & Zoning board at that time.
During one of the meetings Mary asked Tony Berns from LCDC if the ornamental fencing surrounding the recently built Ice Plant condo project would be owned by the taxpayers, since taxpayer monies had paid for the fencing. If the monies were spent on infrastructure, it would essentially be owned by the public? Mary made the comment out of concern and surprise that public monies were being spent on ornamental fencing for a private condo development. She was simply asking for clarification at the time. Her question to Mr. Berns raised questions and concerns from the many neighborhood residents who were present at that meeting. This was at the time when many downtown residents were receiving threatening letters from the City to repair their own sidewalks. The residents were being required to repair the sidewalks or the city would do so and bill them, if the bill was not paid the landowner would have a tax lien placed by the City.
We were shocked to learn that these projects (that did not fit the neighborhood's original zoning) were being subsidized while individual homeowners were being expected to pay for their own sidewalks. I had never met Mary before this meeting, but I will always be thankful that she asked the question. Had she not, it would have been much longer before we realized the inequities that existed with regard to Urban Renewal spending in Coeur d'Alene. "
In 2006, after I had lost the city council election the year before and, while the city was still investigating me for their trumped-up campaign bribe accusation, a possible conflict of interest situation came up on P&Z.
The information packet for the meeting on April 6, 2006 contained a request for a Special Use Permit (SPU) dealing with a property right across the street from our business building. A man named Jay Weedon wanted to rent the building for a children’s party business where he would have big “jumpy castles” set up inside the rental warehouse and would provide the space and accessories for these and other parties. By law, a Special Use Permit was required because this area is zoned Light Manufacturing, and the ordinance does not allow recreational uses without a SPU.
Immediately I realized I needed advice on this issue, so I called Planning Dept. and explained my situation to the planner who worked with P&Z meetings, John Stamsos. He told me I had no conflict. When I arrived at the meeting, I told John Bruning, Chairman of the P&Z Commission about my situation. We discussed it prior to the meeting, and he told me I had no conflict. He also did not suggest I talk with the city attorney.
At the beginning of the agenda item SP-04-06, I announced to the public, on video, that my husband and I own the building and operate the business right across the street. I reviewed whom I asked and that they both agreed I had no conflict. Deputy City Attorney, Warren Wilson was present at the meeting and said nothing.
I won’t bore you with the details of the hearing, though I think they are fascinating, but the final vote of the 3 commissioners present at the meeting, was 1 in favor and 2 against. Mine was one of the “No” votes.
The man applying for the SPU was not happy. Mr. Weedon could have appealed his case up to the city council, probably for less than $200, but he did not, stating he couldn’t afford the appeal fee. He chose to get a lawyer instead. (A lawyer is typically much more expensive, but Mr. Weedon apparently became quick friends with local attorney Steve McCrea, who is closely aligned with city hall.)
In May, more than a month later, I received a copy of a letter from local attorney Steve McCrea to Chief City Attorney Mike Gridley, basically saying Steve was representing Mr. Weedon and asking the city to investigate whether prosecution for conflict of interest was warranted in this case.
I was very surprised and wrote a letter to Mike Gridley, explaining all the relevant points, (you can read it below) It basically outlines the people I asked in advance of the meeting and that I have NO financial stake in the outcome of the hearing. My letter details how our company, Design Events, has nothing to do with children’s parties or jumpy castles, and we do not sell party supplies or have any client parties in our building, ever. The bottom line for me, as a P&Z Commissioner, was that the location was unsafe for young children.
I told city attorney Gridley that the owner of the rental warehouse across the street called me the day after the original P&Z hearing. He had occupied the building for several years, before moving his business to a larger location. He had not been at the meeting but was upset about the decision. I talked with him and explained my concerns about safety, etc. By the end of our conversation, the owner agreed with me that this was not the right location for Mr. Weedon’s business. (The owner actually went on at length about safety issues with the nearby Charter School, when mixed with businesses, and I suggested the young children and toddlers going to and from parties would be an even greater risk.)
Several days later I was notified that Attorney Gridley had referred the case to the Kootenai County Prosecutor, Bill Douglas.
Bill Douglas called me on the phone and we talked at length about the situation. He did not seem concerned and quickly told me there was no problem. So I asked him these questions:
1. How often have you had cases referred for conflict of interest?
2. Does the City Attorney have to investigate every complaint?
3. Who decides when to refer a case to the County Prosecutor?
Mr. Douglas answered my questions verbally and then put them in an email, per my request. Here is his entire message:
I was in Sun Valley (this) week and just returned. We frequently handle conflict cases for CDA city. This is the first screening we have done at their request involving an alleged conflict of interest. The statute makes a conflict a misdemeanor, so technically speaking, we screened it for criminal prosecution, but found no basis. I stated that in my findings. The choice to a) investigate, and b) refer it to me, is entirely discretionary with the city attorney.
I hope this helps.
But my treatment in the Press was a different issue. Fully 4 months after the P&Z hearing, the Press ran an article headlined, “Souza accused of violating conflict of interest laws”. This was AFTER Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas found that there was no conflict of interest, but the Press wrote, “Douglas found that Souza did not “knowingly” violate any laws…” , which I felt was very slanted and did not tell the full story. So I went down to the Press offices, where I knew no one at the time, and ended up with a Guest Editorial, titled “Souza Cleared! First Headline didn’t tell the Whole Story”, (you can read it here) and a regular column in the paper! You can read about how it all happened in the next section of my Truth page.
My letter to Mike Gridley:
After four years on P&Z, I ran for city council in 2005. It was a three-way-race for an open seat, between Dan Yake, Mike Kennedy and me. Mike won when Dan and I split the vote. After the election was over, there was a rumor that I had improperly taken a donation. I wanted to nip it in the bud, so I made an appointment and sat down with Mayor Bloem, who I thought was great. (I also thought LCDC was great too, at that time) I told Sandi I had never spoken with nor met with the developers who donated the $1000 to my campaign, ($500 each), and that they had given the check directly to my campaign treasurer, Jim Pierce, who properly reported it. Sandi told me the city would probably not do any kind of investigation but, if they did, they’d let me know.
Months went by and suddenly I got a phone call from a city attorney, asking questions and telling me there was an investigation. Months more went by with no contact, no information. I regularly emailed the city attorney, asking for a progress report…no response. Finally, in July of 2006, I was asked to come to the Mayor’s office for a meeting.
I was naïve. I liked Sandi and knew we had done nothing wrong, so I had no caution as I arrived at the meeting in the Mayor’s office. John Bruning, Chairman of P&Z, was present also. Both John and Sandi had copies of a report but did not offer to give me one. As the meeting progressed, and their comments became more accusatory, I requested a copy. It took until the end of the meeting for Sandi’s assistant to bring me one.
The report, done by the legal department, was not a legal report, Sandi told me. It started with the accusation that I may have taken a donation in exchange for promises of assistance (bribe). The report went on to say, finally, that there was no evidence of any such meeting or promise, but used slanted words to describe me and my reaction to the investigation. It was an obvious set up.
I asked Mayor Bloem if they had ever investigated any of the city employees. She said, “No”. I asked if any employees had ever done anything which could possibly be considered illegal? She said, “Oh yes, we’ve even had one who was convicted of a misdemeanor.” So I asked if they created a report on that person? “No”, she said.
I asked John Bruning if he knew of any investigation and/or report done on any volunteer P&Z Commissioners in the 20 years or so of his Chairmanship. He answered, “No, well except Steve Badraun”. (Steve Badraun was a P&Z Commissioner for a very long time, and decided to run for Mayor in 2001. Sandi Bloem was his opponent and won. Steve was unceremoniously removed from the P&Z Commission in a late night meeting.)
The most important part of the TRUTH page on this accusation is this:
When I asked Sandi Bloem who filed the complaint against me, she said I didn’t have a right to know. I told her city attorney Wes Sommerton told me I did have a right to know who filed the complaint. Sandi was flustered and said she would have to check with the Legal Dept and get back to me. Two hours later, Sandi called me at home to tell me Legal agreed I do have the right to know…and that it was she, Sandi Bloem, who filed the complaint and ordered the investigation.